Food Mom Life

Easy Meal Planning for Busy Moms

Easy Meal Planning for Busy Moms

Getting dinner on the table every night of the week can sound like a daunting task – especially with two little ones. But I genuinely enjoy cooking so it’s important for me to incorporate it into my work week. Meal planning is a great way to eat healthy meals and keep costs low. 

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After I had kids, meal planning became essential to getting dinner on table during the week. Without a game plan, I was finding that I’d spend hours grocery shopping with no clear meals defined. This would lead to over-spending and running to the store multiple times during the week to get last minute necessities for whatever dinner I came up with that day.

However now that things are planned, I have a clearly defined grocery list that I can stick to – reducing time spent shopping as well as preventing impulse buys in the grocery store. 

Choose a day to plan and weekly meal goal

Pick a day that works for you and stick to it. For me, it’s easy to commit to grocery shopping on Sundays. We rarely have things to do Sunday afternoon aside from getting ready for the work week.

So, on Sundays, I pick 3 recipes for the week – my goal is to make dinner at least three nights. Planning a few meals a week that you DEFINITELY will cook is better than trying to plan a meal for each night of the week and not ending up cooking it. Three meals gives a little flexibility in case other things come up, like a late night at work or a night to order out or go out. There’s also room for one night of leftovers or just an easy freezer/fridge meal.

I usually also shoot for one chicken, one beef, and one salad with protein (just so we’re not eating chicken for a week straight).

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers (The Healthful Ideas)

Find recipes that work for you

Need something in less than 30 minutes? On a diet? Make sure your recipes are something you want to actually cook and eat – this will help stay motivated to cook and stick to your plan. 

Food52 is a great website with tons of recipe ideas! I was just browsing through there recently and I love that they have categories like ‘one pot wonders‘ and ‘five ingredients or less.’I tend to gravitate towards simple recipes with basic flavors, like a meat with roasted vegetables… or a pasta dish with only a few steps. Some of my other favorite recipe websites include: Skinny Taste, The Healthful Ideas, and Gimme Some Oven.

I also always think of an alternative for my toddler – so that I don’t need to make him something completely separate. For example, if I’m making a spicy beef stir-fry, I’ll set aside some of the plain meat and veggies so that he can share. Or for something like pasta dishes with heavy sauces, I’ll keep some plain pasta and use jarred sauce that he’s more familiar with. 

Wherever you like to find recipes, gather them in one spot. My favorite family-friendly recipes are on my Pinterest board here:



Keep your pantry stocked

It’s important to have some basic pantry staples on hand in order to throw together twists on leftovers and to minimize what you’re buying each week. Buying staples in bulk helps to reduce your family grocery bill each month too. You can download my FREE PDF pantry essentials cheat sheet here!

Easy Meal Planning For Busy Moms

Compile your shopping list has been a huge help in not only meal planning but grocery shopping planning as well. I add whatever recipes I’ve found for the week (from the web or Pinterest) to my plan-to-eat library and then add three to my calendar for the week.

Meal Planning for Moms

Plan To Eat Shopping List

Once you’ve chosen your recipes, plan to eat compiles your grocery list  based off of what you’ve scheduled for the week on to a one-page checklist perfect for printing and taking to the store. I grocery shop online (more on that below) – so using PTE makes it easy to tab between the grocery store page and my list. 

Meal Planning for Moms

Get shopping

Like I said above, I absolutely LOVE online grocery shopping. My local Shoprite allows me to grocery shop online (fresh, pantry, and frozen) for an additional $5.95 on my bill. To me, this is completely worth it (I would easily spend more than $6 on impulse buys at the grocery store in real life!). 

The added bonus of online shopping is that you really don’t deviate or have many impulse buys since you’re working off of a list and aren’t wandering aisles. My store charges a service fee of $5.95 but it’s completely worth it in my book. 

If your local grocery store doesn’t have online shopping available, consider Amazon Fresh. It’s rolling out in more areas and brings fresh groceries right to your door. Otherwise, for shopping in-person, stick to your list to avoid over spending. To save even more each week, use a couponing website like Living Rich with Coupons for deals and coupons specific to your local grocery store. 

That’s it! Some weeks are busier than others, so I don’t always stick to this plan – but for the most part it’s been working for us and helps us eat at home more without spending a ton of extra money. If I’m in a pinch, I’ll subscribe to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh for a week to take a break (their weekly service is a little more than planning and buying on your own, but still saves a great deal of time!). 

Any tips/tricks I’ve missed? I can always use some advice! Share your thoughts and comments below.

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  • Reply Weekly Zeecap - Feb 17 - Growing Up Zee February 17, 2017 at 10:14 am

    […] gave HelloFresh another try this week. While I do love meal planning (see my post on that HERE!) – sometimes, life really gets in the way and it’s a nice break to have someone else do […]

  • Reply Aditi February 13, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Such great tips … I just love your website … 😀 So clean and festive. And fun to browse.

    • Reply Megan Z February 13, 2017 at 10:26 am

      Thanks friend!

  • Reply Amber Richter January 25, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Great tips! Meal prepping is so important for busy moms. I find it annoying to do, but a couple of hours saves a lot of time and hassle throughout the week.

  • Reply Megan Z January 18, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Oh wow that sounds great, send me the info!

  • Reply Suzanne January 18, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Great suggestions! I just launched an app that takes all the effort out of meal planning (including sending you personalized menus so you don’t have to search the Internet for recipe ideas!). I’d love to chat with you about it – I hope it can add value to your readers!

  • Reply Branson Merrill January 16, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    I wish we had an online shopping option here!! Great tips!

  • Reply Tiffany @ shortsweetmom September 29, 2016 at 1:03 am

    These are great tips. Figure out dinner every night really can be a challenge! The site sounds awesome. I will have to check it out. 😀

  • Reply Stefani @ Crafty Christian September 28, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    I’m horrible with meal planning, I really just make sure I’m always stocked with frozen meat and veggies and then I can basically throw anything together. I wish I could meal plan better, but my brain just won’t work with me!

  • Reply Shann Eva September 28, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Great suggestions! I struggle with getting dinner on the table every night, so I really need to step up my planning. I’m going to check out that site to help with a shopping list.

  • Reply Raquel September 28, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Really great suggestions. I am loving that you shoot for one chicken, one beef, one salad…in my house we are always doing either chicken or beef and sometimes get stuck in eating one or the other for a couple days straight. I really want to try the salad, because we really love salads and they are so simple to make!

  • Reply Mommy Blogger: Candance Ann September 28, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Thank you so much for the recipes. I’m digging the baked chicken parmesan. Meal planning is very important in our house. (I’ve heard the mom is a dinosaur when she’s hungry.) LOL. Thanks again for the suggestions. Good post.

  • Reply Lauren September 27, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    These are great suggestions! I am always terrible at cooking and get overwhelmed when I try to plan dinner each night. Maybe if I plan out the whole week it would be better with a plan to follow.

  • Reply Erin @LovePeaceBeauty September 27, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    These are great tips! I haven’t ever shopped online for groceries but it seems like it’s working for your family. The meals you planned also look delish!

  • Reply Georgiana September 27, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Great suggestions! I need to get more regular at this, especially since we have a dietary restrictions a few times a week. I do know that it saves a ton of time in the long run!

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